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O’Brien gets extension at WEEI

By Chad Finn
Globe Staff / April 1, 2011

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Being a native New Englander and all, Dave O’Brien knows the appeal of a getaway to the Cape, the Maine coast, and countless sunny destinations in between.

But for the next several seasons, at least, that rite of summer won’t be for him.

The man is booked.

“Tell me about it,’’ said O’Brien, who begins his fifth season calling Red Sox games on WEEI alongside mainstay Joe Castiglione tonight in Texas. “My time is pretty much absorbed.’’

That became more evident yesterday when WEEI and Entercom announced that O’Brien, who is also the play-by-play voice of ESPN’s “Wednesday Night Baseball,’’ agreed to a contract extension to remain in the Red Sox radio booth for the foreseeable future.

O’Brien confirmed that the deal begins next year and is for three years with a fourth-year option.

In terms of job security, it has been a fine month for O’Brien, whom WEEI accurately touts as “one of the most accomplished and versatile play-by-play broadcasters in the country.’’ On March 1, he came to terms on a four-year contract with ESPN, where he has also called NBA games, NCAA men’s and women’s basketball, and MLS, as well as the 2006 World Cup for ABC.

O’Brien, who is absent from 25-30 Sox broadcasts a season because of his ESPN duties, is appreciative of the flexibility his employers provide.

“It works perfectly because my bosses at ESPN and Entercom have allowed it to,’’ said O’Brien, a Quincy native who went to high school in New Hampshire and still resides there. “A lot of places wouldn’t necessarily stand for it, but it has worked, and I’m lucky it has because I’ve got two great gigs and I hope to do them both for a long time, and hopefully people will stand me that long.’’

O’Brien admits there are sacrifices that he must make. He laments that he doesn’t see his family as much as he would like this time of year. And he presumably spends more time on planes than most pilots.

Consider his itinerary over the next several days. Yesterday, he was in St. Louis to call the Cardinals’ opener against the Padres for ESPN. He was scheduled to fly to Texas for the Sox’ opener today. After the game, he heads to Indianapolis to call the women’s Final Four for ESPN. Following Tuesday’s championship game, he bolts for New York for “Wednesday Night Baseball,’’ then he’s off to Cleveland for the Sox game Thursday.

He might get exhausted if he didn’t enjoy it all so much.

“People won’t believe this, but I have that thought about how lucky I am every night I walk into Fenway,’’ said O’Brien, “almost as if somebody is going to come into the booth and ask me to go take my seat, as if this didn’t really happen. But it has, and I consider myself incredibly fortunate.’’

Feld out at NESN Joel Feld is done at NESN after more than five years as one of the network’s chief decision-makers.

Although NESN said in a statement yesterday that Feld, who had been there since November 2005 and oversaw the network’s shows and game production as executive vice president of programming and executive producer, had “decided to leave,’’ an industry source said the decision was made by network executives.

“Joel has made significant contributions to NESN’s growth and success,’’ said Sean McGrail, NESN’s president and CEO. “We are very grateful for the passion and leadership he brought to work every day and wish him the best in his future endeavors.’’

The timing of the move is surprising. Although NESN has endured some notable disappointments over the past year — the household rating for Sox telecasts plummeted from 9.4 in 2009 to 6.0 last season, and the much-hyped “NESN Daily’’ program flopped in its original format — the network should get a significant boost from what is a highly anticipated baseball season. NESN will broadcast 150 Sox games this year, beginning today.

New ballgame After an offseason of uncertainty and a couple of tweaks to the roster, “The Baseball Show’’ will be back on Comcast SportsNet New England beginning at 9 a.m. tomorrow. However, there will be no radio simulcast, as there had been the first two seasons. WEEI decided to go with its own weekend programming — Rob Bradford, Kirk Minihane, and Matt Perrault will team up for a 9 a.m.-1 p.m. program — while 98.5 The Sports Hub and CSNNE couldn’t come to terms on a deal. Bob Neumeier will usually check in as the program’s host, though Michael Felger will fill that role for the first two weeks. The Globe’s Dan Shaughnessy, who has left his Saturday gig on The Sports Hub, will serve as a regular co-host and contributor, along with CSNNE and The Sports Hub’s Sean McAdam. Lou Merloni will also be a regular — because of his WEEI affiliation, he wouldn’t have been able to participate had it landed on The Sports Hub — and Jessica Moran will handle the online/social media role. Steve Buckley, a regular in the show’s first two seasons, won’t be as prominent, though he will be a rotating co-host . . . Adam Jones, Shaughnessy’s former weekend co-host on The Sports Hub, begins his new gig at ESPNBoston April 8 when the site launches an internet-only radio show to coincide with the Sox home opener. “ESPNBoston.com Radio with Adam Jones’’ will air from 12-2 p.m. weekdays.

Chad Finn can be reached at finn@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @globechadfinn.

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